Personal information is everywhere in modern systems. Most people have multiple user profiles, duplicate friend information, redundant login details, and several address books. All of this personal data is scattered across many systems.
Sometimes this is done deliberately, to provide better security or privacy, but it’s most often done incidentally, because not all of our systems synchronize with each other. Different facets of our identity reside in different places.
We’ve gotten used to this situation in public spaces on the Internet. Most of us take for granted the hassle of having to re-enter our profile data and re-establish links with our friends and peers. It’s the price we pay for an Internet that preserves anonymity.
Inside the walls of an organization, it’s a different story. It’s crucial to know who’s who. It’s important to have accurate, up-to-date contact information. But most of today’s enterprise systems contribute to the identity management problem. And the new breed of Enterprise 2.0 systems are only likely to make things worse in the near future.
Dealing with this explosion of fractured contact information is a hard problem. Dean and I have spent loads of time discussing grandiose, world-changing ideas to fix it all.
Then we gave up and decided that two guys in a basement weren’t going to be able to resolve these corporate identity management problems any time soon.
But we figured that something we could do was collect existing data and help people share that with their peers. So we added a template to support contact information.
Infovark captures contact information from Microsoft Outlook Contacts and shares them with your colleagues. We use the hCard standard to mark up contact information, so as to make everything as interoperable as possible. hCard is itself based on the older vCard standard, implemented by virtually all modern email systems.
If you add your Outlook contacts folder to the list of mail folders Infovark monitors, you’ll see the contacts appear in your shared website:
Much like the way we handle files, if you update your contacts in Outlook, you’ll find they automatically update in Infovark, too. So while we haven’t figured out a way to solve the identity problem yet, we’re doing what we can to keep the problem from getting any worse.
Infovark will also automatically relate these contacts to the email and attachments you receive, helping to build a picture about what subjects your contacts know about. And because contact information is also tied to our user data, Infovark will notice which of your contacts interacts with your web site, and will learn about the things they care about too.
Infovark uses both sets of information to help you identify the right person to talk to about any particular subject. It’s an easy way to keep track of all your “go-to” people.